A Heart, Missing

Heart Yael Yehuda

Photo: Yael Yehuda

 

There stands the empty crib

The room that will not hear

The sounds of cries or coos or laughter.

There are the walls,

Fresh paint

Fresh pain

For the awaited,

For a broken chapter.

A heart

Missing

Breast and breath

For an eternity of loss,

Till the hereafter.

 

 

Note: Dedicated with love to all empty-armed mothers (in all their manifestations and realities and outward presentations), on this Mother’s Day.

For Debbie’s One Word Sunday: Missing

 

 

The Intertwined

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.

Nate trembled. He fingered the rough edge of the faded construction paper and the sensation lifted him into memories filled with the scent of glue and the sounds of children.

It’s been how many years since? Thirty. At least.

He inspected the note again, as if expecting more words to appear among the scrawled letters on the hand-torn bit of yellowed-green. None did.

It was not signed, but even after all this time there would be no mistaking it. Not by him.

Elinor.

Kindergarten sweetheart and schoolyard tormentor, both.

What did she want? Where had she been? Why write him now? Why him? Why this way?

Tears pressed behind his eyes and he was surprised by their intensity. The last time he’d felt that way (well, the last time he consciously admitted to it being so), was when he’d seen that ad, twelve years ago. The image of it unfurled behind his mind’s eye, never really forgotten: “Missing. Elinor Bricks. Age 23. Long dark curly hair. Blue eyes. Medium height and built. Last seen walking into the woods south of Sparrow Street, wearing blue pants, gray jacket, sneakers, and a brown messenger bag.”

Two weeks of searching before the police had folded their tents and left the flyers for the wind and squirrels.

Three months before he could sleep.

Four years before he let himself date anyone. Two more before he married. Five before he lost Marianne and little Morris as the baby tried and could not be born.

Could that have been only last year?

His heart had been hollow. Since.

Now this.

“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.

Their ancestors had planted those trees over a century ago. Hers and his. Far apart enough to stand alone. Close enough to weave together roots and canopy. They were a symbol of connection. The place where marriage took place and funerals left from. Where roots spread fingers to hold on even as they reached to grip new spaces. It was the very place where past and present, love and life and loss and longing intertwined.

His fingers spread over the bit of paper, reaching to embrace it, and interlacing words with the unknown.

He trembled.

His heart thundered.

“I’m sorry, Marianne.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Prompt: Rooted

 

Not For The Amenities

Photo prompt © Jean L. Hays

 

“Lush, ain’t it?” The sixteen-year-old shivered in her short jacket.

Frosty patches dotted the monochrome shrubbery. She nudged one with her sneaker. “So, why exactly did you choose this godforsaken nothingness for your midlife crisis? Couldn’t have been the view, or the amenities.”

It’s fixable, Branden thought but said nothing. He’d worry more if Lizzie didn’t quip. And anyway, he knew she knew why they’d had to move.

Lizzie sniffed. He offered a tissue but she leaned into him, seeking a rare hug.

“Mama would’ve loved it here,” she whispered. “Even if we hadn’t lost everything to the medical bills.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers Challenge

 

 

Tea For One

Reena Saxena

Photo Credit: Reena Saxena

 

It will be tea for one. Again.

She boiled the water in the pot they’d gotten on their honeymoon in Venice, and she spread the tablecloth he’d always said reminded him of his grandma’s parlor (and had always added “in the best way possible” when she’d frown).

She rearranged the mismatched chairs left from the two sets they’d combined when they moved in together, but then returned the plaid one so it rested half-turned to the table and half-facing the radio. Like old times. Like the many evenings when she’d mend some this or that or mark her students’ lessons, while he’d lean forward onto one palm and watch her from the corner of his eye even as his attention was on his favorite broadcast.

“I have eight favorites,” he’d often chuckle. “One for each day of the week and two on Sunday.”

“But none as favorite as you,” he’d always add, just because he knew it pleased her to be reminded that she mattered more …

 

She turned the burner off when the kettle wailed, a lone wolf in the night. She spooned some of the good tea into the teapot, and poured the water on the leaves to let it steep, then capped the pot and dressed it with the cozy she’d made from his favorite sweater when it had too many holes to patch and too much love to throw away.

“You don’t toss away much,” he’d tease her, and they both knew it was both compliment and understanding. They’d grown with little and later had even less, so she had learned to not let go of things too easily.

“I do keep you around, don’t I?” she’d tease back … some days only half in jest for how he’d manage to so exasperate her. Muddy shoes inside the house and socks that never quite made it into the hamper, and an infuriating tendency to not recall the milk or pay the mortgage. Never mind remembering her birthday or their anniversary.

Or the time he’d strayed from vows … and bore a hole into her heart that never fully mended.

She’d forgiven him for that. Of sort. Or as much as anyone can a betrayal. For she’d come to understand it was based less on his disrespect of her as it was on his embedded insecurities. He’d cried in shame when he’d confessed his indiscretion and she’d ended up comforting him, feeling both tender and resentful.

He’d bought her the tea caddie after that. The hand-carved thing of beauty had cost a ridiculous amount and did little to improve upon the one they’d had already … other than in how it served as a reminder for the cost of pain and of his commitment to penance.

 

She passed a finger over the caddie’s rounded top and felt each curve like a canyon of memories in her heart. When she’d fallen ill after their failed attempt at parenting, and the bills kept mounting, he’d almost sold his beloved radio to make payments. Yet he’d refused to discuss letting go of the caddie.

“It is worth a small fortune,” she had tried.

“And that is exactly why it is befitting of you that it stay,” he had replied.

 

She sighed and sat and poured the tea into her cup and watched the steam cloud the glass as the fluid rose like unabated sorrow.

It was their anniversary. The third since he’d left her, this time to where no tea caddie and no amount of tears could remedy.

“Do not hasten to follow,” he’d begged her promise when they both knew it was time. “Go on and live for me.”

Perhaps she wouldn’t have promised had she known quite how bereft she would be without him. Yet she had given him her word, and she was not about to introduce betrayal into the fabric they had so labored to repair.

It will be tea for one, again. Today.

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge

 

A Moment Before

three line tales, week 169: San Jose

Photo: Peter Gonzalez via Unsplash

 

There will not be another night so drenched in sorrow, bereft of even the wish for the downpour to turn hope. Yet they held to the moment right before the speeding motorbike intersected their car … and bled their child to no more.

 

 

 

Note: dedicated to those who know this loss, and to the hope that fewer will ever do.

For Three Line Tales #169

 

That Night

Photo Prompt: © Ronda Del Boccio

 

That night, when the children went missing, they fanned out, flashlights in hands and a dark crawling about in their hearts, which even the large projector brought out by the local sheriff’s office could not stop the spread of.

They looked in every corner, under brambles and in culverts and in places too small to hide a squirrel, let alone a child. The three had vanished so completely, one could have believed they had been naught but phantoms.

Yet phantoms wouldn’t have left canyons in souls, eroded deeper with the daily grief. For the kids were never found.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Five Years Ago

Carol

Carol Hornig: Much loved, deeply missed

 

Five years ago today

You passed on

Into effervescent light,

Boundless love,

And joyful belly laughs.

 

It is no wonder, for

You have lived light, even

Through deep pain.

You have breathed

Unconditional

Love

And nourished all you’d met

Along your path.

You have gifted us all with your

Laughter,

Your glorious heart.

 

You are now

One

With it all,

In the place your soul

Must have always known

As home.

 

 

The One Place

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She ran and wouldn’t stop till she got there.

It didn’t matter that she had a stitch in her side or that something hard in her backpack kept slamming into her ribs or that the lower branches of some trees slapped burning licks against her cheeks.

She would not stop.

At last she saw a glimmering reflection and the slight opening in the dense woods that signaled she was almost there.

Her attention drawn to the sight ahead, she missed a crawler root and fell hard. She lay there, the breath knocked out of her and pain coursing through her body where it hit the ground. A gnarly stump poked out of the earth not two inches from her eye. It would have done real damage.

She was almost too miserable to care but her eyes still filled with tears. For the pain. For the helplessness. For the exhaustion. For so much more she could not find the words for and couldn’t afford to. Not yet.

She had to get up or she’d never move again. The backpack pressed heavy against her and she couldn’t help but remember other weight pinning her down. Unwelcome. Uninvited. More tears sprung. Then sobs that came from someplace between her diaphragm and belly button and competed with the stitch already jabbing through her chest. It was too much. It had all been. Too much.

Finally, after what seemed a decade, her breath calmed and she found strength to push up to her elbows, then her knees, then up to lean against a tree and shift her weight gingerly onto each leg.

Nothing broken. Or nothing broken that would prevent her from getting there. Her elbow throbbed and she was bleeding from scratches on her face and a badly skinned palm. There would be more abrasions underneath her pants where a tear bloomed red at the knee. But she was up, and some burden had lifted in the crying, even if it left her heart hollow with sorrow and echoing with despair.

She filled her lungs with a long breath and a tardy sob escaped to join the others but then her body shuddered one last time and she steadied.

She walked on. Not running now, just dogged determination.

The forest peeled away to reveal the clearing. The pond glowed and the purple light remained as she’d remembered. Lush greens licked the muddy banks and a clump of cattails whispered in an almost nonexistent breeze. The tree, too, was still there, just as it had been before: it’s bark missing in places, it’s silvery leaves rustling as the very breath of the place coursed through it from root to leafy tip.

“I’ve come back,” she breathed, and touched her scraped palm to the exposed trunk. Skin to blood to skin.

An echo filled her chest and she knew it knew her, and the relief made the jagged hole in the center of her self heal some.

This was the one place she never felt completely alone in.

She’d last left it thinking that her old life would not chase her to the new, and she had tried – for longer than she thought she could endure – to pretend that she no longer longed for what she had believed in and had given up. She could give it up no more.

“Will you help me?” she whispered. “I’d forgotten how.”

And the tree rustled and a ripple ran across the water and into her core, and her body softened so completely that she slid to sit leaning against the trunk. Welcomed. Invited. Warmed.

She’ll sleep. And she will dream. And she will wake to find the way back to herself. To her true realm in her rightful time.

 

 

For Sue’s WritePhoto prompt

 

The Tree

the tree amitaiasif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

“I will wait by the tree,”

She had said.

“At the fork where

The road

Meets the lush, green

Horizon.”

Wait she did,

Day again and again

And a month, and another.

Wait until they had come

Trudging home

From the war,

Wearing smiles, but

Carrying the weight

Of their sorrows

Around them.

 

 

 

For Becca Givens’ Sunday Trees

 

Memory Jar

Photo prompt: © Priya Bajpal

 

“Can I take one now?”

“Breakfast first.”

Deena sighed. She ate her oatmeal and drank her milk, but her eyes kept returning to the seashell table Dad had gotten for Mom. Before. To the jar that usually stood on the mantel. Since.

Finally, Grandma rose and put her mug in the sink.

Now that it was time, Deena hung back. She remembered filling the jar, with Grandma, after the accident, when memories were fresh and both their hearts were broken.

Grandma took her hand. “Come. Reach in. Pick one, and you’ll see – the right moment with them will find you.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers